UNBELIEVABLE AMOUNT OF FORCE USED TO STOP 10 ACTIVISTS FROM REACHING GAZA

As an Israeli and a journalist, I was taken aside and released after my passport was stamped. The Karame’s other 15 passengers were arrested and were not allowed to see their lawyers.
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Sailing on a bucket, surrounded by commandos

Haaretz writer returns to Israel after 26 days with Gaza-bound pro-Palestinian activists.

By Amira Hass
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Activists after commando units took over the ship, July 19, 2011 Photo by: IDF spokesperson

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Three missile ships and seven commando boats were sent to take over the tub known as the Dignite Al Karame yesterday, about 50 nautical miles from the shore.

At least 150 soldiers were sent to sea early in the morning to prevent the 10 civilian activists, the three crew members and the three journalists on the “freedom flotilla” from reaching Gaza’s port.

For an hour yesterday, the activists thought the navy might have given up its expensive mission to intercept them. They imagined a different, non-violent ending to their voyage, which began in Corsica on June 25, and continued into international waters on Saturday from the Greek island of Kastellorizo.

On Monday, the activists and the crew decided to drop anchor about 80 nautical miles from the shore so that if they were intercepted, it would be during the day.

On Tuesday morning, the ship weighed anchor and set off again.

Around 10 A.M., an Israeli navy vessel appeared to the north. The Karame’s radio began to crackle: “This is the Israeli navy. What is your destination?”

“Gaza port.”

Permission denied, the voice said.

Just then, communication was cut off. At about 1 P.M., a few commando boats sped toward the Karame from the west. From the south and north, three missile boats appeared.

We were all wearing our bright orange life jackets. The eight people below deck looked like cartoon characters.

But what approached was no joke. Two long, greenish missile boats with commandos on board, black masks hiding their faces, aiming all sorts of weapons at the orange-clad figures.

The commando boats came closer; alongside them were two gray inflatable rubber boats.

Later, three more appeared.

Israeli expatriate Dror Feiler, now a Swedish citizen, shouted in Hebrew: “Stop pointing your guns at us, we’re unarmed. He played a tune he had composed, with Jewish cantorial motifs, on his saxophone.

Just as he stopped playing, the commando boats began to slow down and pull back. The activists joked that the tune had done the job.

Around 2 P.M., seven commando boats came within a few meters of the yacht on both sides.

The water cannons were aimed straight at the deck. The rubber boats also came closer, and the Karame’s crew began to come down wet from the upper deck. The engine stopped and the soldiers, with their black masks and their pointed guns, ordered everyone into the cabin.

We won’t hurt you if you obey, someone said. The activists were crowded into the cabin, and the deck filled up with masked men who ordered them one by one into the rubber vessels.

The masked men extended their hands and said calming things like “hold my hand; here, let me move your bag for you.” We had hardly gotten onto the rubber boat, which had Border Police markings, when we were given water. The masked soldiers on the other boats were busy taking pictures of each humanitarian act.

From the rubber boats, we were taken onto the huge missile boat Kidon, among the missiles – obviously intended for Gaza – and soldiers whose faces were not masked.

Later we were taken down to airless cabins. Three or four young men guarded us. They were kind; they brought us water and fruit. Someone checked our pulses. Someone asked whether anyone was in pain. That was the extent of the medical exam.

Four hours later, when we arrived in Ashdod, our heads ached from the suffocating cabins.

At about 7 P.M. we stepped onto the quay at Ashdod. Masses of soldiers and a few people in civilian clothes engulfed us. People were taken to their luggage.

This is where we parted ways: As an Israeli and a journalist, I was taken aside and released after my passport was stamped. The Karame’s other 15 passengers were arrested and were not allowed to see their lawyers.

 

Source

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Also see THIS AP Report from HaAretz

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All foreigners aboard seized flotilla yacht to leave Israel by end of day

Interior Ministry spokeswoman says one foreign activist has already flown out; Dignite Al Karame was intercepted by IDF on Tuesday.

 

 

BREAKING NEWS ~~ ORDERS GIVEN TO TAKE OVER BOAT HEADING TO GAZA

Israel has done it again! They have unilaterally declared that International Waters belong to them!! International Laws do not apply to them, never did and never will as long as the West continues to support the ‘Pirates of the Mediterranean’.
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The ‘Dignitי – Al Karama’ (Dignity – Al Karama) ship sailing off the coast of the French Mediterranean island of Corsica on June 25, 2011 to join the new pro-Palestinian aid flotilla. Photo by: AFP

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Israel Navy intercepts sole remnant of flotilla heading for Gaza

 

 

Dignite-Al Karame ignores call to change course from Gaza; IDF chief orders take over of vessel; video shows Israel Navy’s contact with passengers before the interception.

By Anshel Pfeffer and Amira Hass

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz ordered the Israel Navy on Tuesday to intercept the French yacht Dignite-Al Karame after it had refused to stop heading toward the Gaza shore.

The Israel Navy took over the vessel minutes after the IDF chief issued the order, and there was no resistance on the part of the passengers.

When the Karame was some 50 miles away from Gaza, the Israel Navy began trailing the yacht and contacted the passengers on board, demanding they state their final destination and disclose if they are carrying any weapons.

A member of the Greek delegation to Gaza answered the questions and promised that they are not carrying any kind of weapons. He said their destination is the Gaza port.

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An Israel Defense Forces official confirmed that the Israel Navy contacted the yacht, and warned it that it is nearing a blockaded area. Defense establishment sources stressed that they would not allow any kind of vessels to dock in the Gaza Strip, so any ship trying to break the blockade would be intercepted.

Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza Movement said the Dignite-Al Karame had previously declared Alexandria, Egypt, as its destination so it could slip out of Greece, and then changed its route to Gaza, saying it was a legal move.

Defense establishment sources said Sunday they expected no violent resistance from the 10 activists and three crew members aboard the Dignite-Al Karame, so its interception should be swift and smooth.

Source

 

ONE MORE ATTEMPT TO BREAK THE SIEGE OF GAZA

 Three of those on board already sailed towards Gaza in last years’ flotilla. One of them, Greek sociologist Vangelis Pissias, claims that while in detention in Ashdod last year he was severely beaten by Israeli security forces. Also on board for the second time is Dror Feiler, the Israel-born Swedish national, who is chairperson of ‘European Jews for a Just Peace.”
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Fuelling the Dignite-Al Karama ship at Kastellorizo port, Greece, on July 15, 2011.

Photo by: Amira Hass
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Gaza-bound ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists sets sail from Greece

Ten activists head to Gaza aboard the French Dignite-Al Karama ship, regarding themselves as representatives of the entire abortive flotilla.

By Amira Hass

SOMEWHERE IN THE EAST MEDITERRANEAN – On Saturday evening a Gaza-bound boat left Greek territorial waters. Its 10 participants regard themselves as representatives of the entire abortive flotilla to Gaza, and are determined to exhaust all possibilities in order to reach their destination, or at least carry out the symbolic act of protesting the blockade. They are well aware of the Lilliputian dimensions of their venture, compared with the massive impact organizers had initially planned to have with the 10-odd vessel flotilla.

Dignite-Al Karama, one of two yachts purchased by the French delegation in the second Freedom Flotilla, left a port in Corsica on June 25. Thus, it was spared the fate of eight other boats which were supposed to sail out of Greek ports, but were impounded by Greek authorities.

Last Wednesday Karama left the port of Sitia in Crete, where it had been anchored for a week, awaiting the other boats in vain. Once it was clear that Greece, under strong Israeli pressure, would not allow those boats to sail, its remaining passengers ¬ three French nationals and one Tunisian ¬ were joined by three representatives of other delegations, a Greek, Swede and a Canadian, and by three more French activists who arrived from France. Also on board are three crew members and three journalists from Al Jazeera and Haaretz.

The decision to carry on the mission of sailing to Gaza was not automatically welcomed by other delegations or by the steering committee of the flotilla. Some preferred to officially end the current campaign. Karama’s participants spent long hours negotiating and convincing the others.

On Thursday evening Karama reached the eastern Greek Island of Kastellorizo in order to fuel and meet the additional delegates from France. Kastellorizo’s history is connected to Gaza: During World War II, after having been occupied by the British army and fearing German attacks, some of the inhabitants fled to Gaza and remained in Palestine for a couple of years. This made the inhabitants of the island and its small port city especially hospitable to the small boat and its mission.

Three of those on board already sailed towards Gaza in last years’ flotilla. One of them, Greek sociologist Vangelis Pissias, claims that while in detention in Ashdod last year he was severely beaten by Israeli security forces. Also on board for the second time is Dror Feiler, the Israel-born Swedish national, who is chairperson of ‘European Jews for a Just Peace.”

Claude L’Eostic, a French flotilla organizer and a veteran activist for Palestinian causes, said that even the sailing of one tiny yacht was the best way to expose the Israeli policy of blockading Gaza, and its illegality.

Source
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This just in….. from Huwaida Arraf ….
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For Immediate Release 

French boat Dignité of Freedom Flotilla II leaves Greece

The French boat “Dignité/Karama” (Dignity) left the Greek island Kastellorizo around 8:30PM local time on Saturday July 16, 2011, heading south. The ten passengers onboard view themselves as representatives of the whole Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human. The rest of the Flotilla’s ships have been detained in different Greek ports, through bureaucratic obstruction, sabotage, sudden restrictions and withdrawals of flags.

The Dignité, sailing under a French flag, left Corsica on June 25th, and has, over the past weeks, been in Greek waters.  It has now left– so far without being followed by the Greek coast guard or Navy.

Among the delegates on board is Jacqueline Le Corre, member of the French Communist Party, Jean Claude Lefort, former French Member of the European Parliament, as well as representatives of the Canadian, French, Greek and Swedish initiatives within Freedom Flotilla II. Onboard the Dignité are also renowned Israeli journalist Amira Hass, reporting for Haaretz, and a team from Al-Jazeera TV. (Full list of passengers below).

Kastellorizo, in the far east of the Greek archipelago, is only miles from Turkish mainland. A substantial part of Kastellorizo’s population fled during the Second World War to Gaza, where they stayed for years. The present mayor of the island, Paul Panigiris, was born in Gaza, and feels strongly, as do many other people from Kastellorizo, for a population that once hosted them and is now under siege.

The action of Dignité is not a mini-version of Freedom Flotilla 2, but a first wave that will be followed by others.  It is a message to the Israeli government, to the international community and to the besieged people of Gaza: The Free Gaza Movement and the coalition of Freedom Flotilla II are not giving up until the inhumane and illegitimate blockade of Gaza is lifted.

Gaza, we are coming!

 

 

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Passengers on the Dignité

 

Stéphan Corriveau, Coordinator of Canadian boat to Gaza

 

Dror Feiler, spokesperson of Ship to Gaza-Sweden, President of the European Jews for a Just Peace, artist, musician, composer

 

Jérôme Gleizes, France, Europe Ecologie Les Verts

 

Jacqueline Le Corre, France, Médecin-Collectif 14 de soutien au peuple palestinien, member of Parti communiste francais

 

Jean Claude Lefort, former MEP, French Communist Party –PCF

 

Claude Léostic, spokesperson of Un bateau français pour Gaza

 

Yamin Makri, France, Collectif 69 de soutien au peuple palestinien

 

Omeyya Naoufel Seddik, Tunisian, Fédération des Tunisiens pour une citoyenneté des deux rives (FTCR), and Ligue tunisienne des Droits de l’Homme (LTDH), Phd in Political Science

 

Thomas Sommer-Houdeville, spokesperson of Un bateau français pour Gaza, Researcher, Political Sciecnce, Middle East Studies, at the Institut francais du proche Orient

 

Vangelis Pissias, spokesperson of Ship to Gaza-Greece, Professor at Technical University of Athens

 

Amira Hass, Israeli journalist – Haaretz

 

Ayyache Derradji, Journalist from Al Jazeera

 

Stéphane Guida, Cameraman from Al Jazeera

 

Zacharia Stylianakis, Captain

 

Hilaire Folacci, Mariner

 

Yannick Voisin, Mariner

 

Jo Leguen, Navigator

THREE WOMEN STILL HELD ‘HOSTAGE’ ON AMERICAN BOAT TO GAZA

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Athens, July 16, 2011 – Day 16 of the imprisonment of the U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, at a U.S. Embassy shared pier near Piraeus, Greece, just outside of Athens.

The U.S. Embassy has done absolutely nothing to help us in 100 + degree heat at a U.S. Government shared pier!  No shore power, no alternatives provided (like another pier). No consular visits to see the conditions for themselves. NOTHING, ABSOULTELY NOTHING!!!

This weekend, please call the State Department 202-647-4000 and ask for the 24 hour Emergency Operations Center. Tell them that 3 people are still enduring the inhumane, dangerous conditions on the boat. 

All are women–2 Americans and 1 UK citizen.  They are:

Regina Carey (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/07/06/18683952.php) from San Rafael, California, is a consultant specializing in strategic planning and planned giving. In her lifetime commitment to human rights she has focused her time and energy to the Rights of the Indigenous (original people), Water Rights and Peace. She is a co-founder of the Black/Jewish Dialogue Group in Marin County, California. She has been an active participant in the World Social Forum and the UN Conference Against Racism (Durban, South Africa).

Crew member Jenny Linnell, is a British citizen from Devon, England, and was a Free Gaza crew member in 2008 on the first boat that broke the naval blockade of Gaza.  She stayed in Gaza for a year and worked with the International Solidarity Movement.  Her exit from Gaza into Egypt a year later took over 6 weeks because she had arrived by boat. She holds a “Day Skipper” license from the Royal Yachting Association and founded a sailing collective called “Learning the Ropes”. 

Ann Wright is a former U.S. diplomat with 16 years in the State Department and Deputy Chief of Mission (Deputy Ambassador) at 4 U..S Embassies (Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia) and who got the State Department’s award for Heroism for her actions protecting civilians during the civil war in Sierra Leone. She resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to Bush’s war on Iraq.

Press Release FROM


HOW RUMORS GET STARTED IN THE ISRAELI MEDIA

Ultimately, we will never know where this story came from but it is illustrative of a bigger problem in the Israeli media. Namely, rumors and reports with no sources are all too often accepted as fact and reported as such.
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Were ‘Air Flotilla’ Activists Arrested in West Bank Demonstrations?

Posted by Joseph Dana

 

Demonstration in Nabi Saleh 9 July 2011. Photo by Oren Ziv/ Activestills.orgDemonstration in Nabi Saleh 9 July 2011. Photo by Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org

 

According to media reports carried by all major news outlets in Israel, four ‘air flotilla’ passengers were arrested/detained Saturday in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh during an unarmed demonstration this morning. Haaretz, in its headline story, is citing reports by Channel 10 (Heb), that four ‘air flotilla’ activists have been taken for questioning after they had been arrested in the demonstration. The Jerusalem Post, citing unnamed ‘organizers’, claims that air flotilla passengers are clashing with security forces in Nabi Saleh. The paper does not cite the name of the organizations that the ‘organizers’ are representatives of. Ynet is reporting that activists might be involved in demonstrations in Nabi Saleh and Qalandiya  but they provide nothing to substantiate their claims. None of these reports seem to based on facts on the ground in Nabi Saleh.

Kobi Snitz, an Israeli activist with the Anarchists Against the Wall, told me by telephone from Nabi Saleh that he has not seen any ‘air flotilla’ passenger in the course of the day. He told me that four people were indeed arrested, but they were all Israeli Jews from Tel Aviv. In fact, the Israeli activists are being charged with assaulting soldiers despite clear video footage to the contrary according to Snitz. Snitz did comment that there were international activists present in the demonstration but ‘they were definitively not arrested or taken in by Israeli forces.” Other villagers in Nabi Saleh told to me that they were unaware that ‘air flotilla’ passengers were present in their demonstration today. I have not been able to reach anyone present at the Qalandiya demonstration at the time of this writing.

News outlets often make mistakes and +972 is no exception. However, it is strange for a story that is based almost entirely on unsubstantiated reports to become the headline of every major newspaper website in Israel. When rumors of arrests of air flotilla passengers began this morning, Yossi Gurvitz contacted the IDF spokesman for a confirmation of the story. He was given a categorical rejection of claims that air flotilla passengers were targeted for arrest in the West Bank. No comment was given about air flotilla activists involved in demonstrations in Nabi Saleh.

 

 

So where did this rumor begin? Some air flotilla passengers were able to enter Israel yesterday (see above video) despite public statements by the Israeli government that they would stop them. Perhaps, an editor at Channel Ten thought it logical that air flotilla passengers would run to demonstrations in Nabi Saleh as soon as they arrived. Ultimately, we will never know where this story came from but it is illustrative of a bigger problem in the Israeli media. Namely, rumors and reports with no sources are all too often accepted as fact and reported as such.

UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post has changed its headline from Nabi Saleh to “Bil’in and Qalandia.” I expect that others will follow suit in the coming hours. The Jerusalem Post does not mention that the story has been updated or that its previous version was based on unsubstantiated rumors.  The story still has value in terms of the process by which the Israeli media qualifies information fit to print.

 

Written FOR

 

Also see Dana’s latest reports on the American Boat to Gaza….

The Unlikely Alliance between Greek Activists and the Flotilla

and

ISRAEL DEFENDS ITS ‘RIGHT TO BE WRONG’

 Dozens to be deported from TLV airport, 5 Israeli activists arrested

Posted by Joseph Dana

Some 50 ‘Welcome to Palestine’ activists reportedly barred from entering Israel while hundreds others banned from boarding flights; bystanders jeer, assault Israeli activists as police look on.

Israeli activist Matan Cohen being detained by police at Ben Gurion airport (photo: Oren Ziv / activestills.org)

Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv – On one of the busiest travel days of the week, Ben Gurion International Airport just outside of Tel Aviv was in a state of near chaos this afternoon. Hordes of tourists mixed with hundreds of police officers and journalists in the grand arrival terminal as Israel prepared for the landing of hundreds of pro-Palestinian tourists attempting to travel to the West Bank. Last night, two pro-Palestinian American activists, who were also passengers on the US boat to Gaza, were detained by immigration authorities as they attempted to enter Israel.  They were the first of reportedly 50 activists who have been banned from entering the state of Israel in the last 24 hours. Hundreds of other tourists were not allowed to board their flights to Tel Aviv after Israeli security authorities sent their names to all airlines flying to Israel.

Over the past week, Israeli media has been frantically reporting that hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists planned to arrive at Ben Gurion airport with clear intentions to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Part of a Europe-based campaign, “Welcome to Palestine,” their political protest has been labelled the “air flotilla” or “flytilla” by the international press, despite organizers rejecting connections to the flotilla, which was recently stopped by the Greek coast guard from sailing to the Gaza Strip. The Israeli media, at the time of writing, is referring to the event as a “Gaza fly-in” despite no proof or comment that passengers intend to travel to Gaza. In fact, the organizers have been clear in their desire to travel freely and openly to the West Bank and not Gaza.

Welcome to Palestine was meant to demonstrate the effective control of Israel over the Palestinian Territories. Visitors to the West Bank usually hide their destination for fear of being deported from Israel, but participants of Welcome to Palestine decided to openly declare their wish to visit Palestinian towns and villages.

Israeli Policemen at Ben Gurion Aiport, June 8 2011 (photo: Oren Ziv / activestills.org)

This morning, hundreds of plain clothes and uniformed police scoured the Ben Gurion arrival hall in order to “establish calm” ahead of the arrival of the activists. By 13:00, Israeli and foreign journalists had taken over the arrival terminal as the first flights landed. At approximately 13:30, several Israeli activists belonging to the leftist group Anarchists against the Wall held up small signs reading “Welcome to Palestine.” Some protesters held up Palestinian flags before undercover and regular cops pounced on them and dragged them outside the terminal.

Several dozen people, who had been waiting in the terminal to pick up loved ones, began chanting, “Pieces of shit” and “Go to Syria” as the protesters were taken to waiting police vans. Some of the onlookers spit, kicked and punched the protesters while they were in police custody. Police officers did nothing to prevent these attacks.

At one point, Jerusalem Post columnist Larry Derfner was detained as he pleaded with the angry mob of onlookers to stop attacking the detained activists.

“You can’t enter the West Bank without military permission even as a tourist,” Prime Minister’s Office Arabic spokesman Ofir Gendelman remarked after the Israeli activists were arrested. His statement confirms Israel’s absolute military control over the West Bank.  “These pro-Palestinian activists do not recognize the State of Israel and this is a clear provocation against us,” he continued in the buzzing terminal. When asked if passengers will be deported for stating intentions to travel to the West Bank as tourists, his response was dismissive: “We know that some of these passengers have connections with Hamas and this is unacceptable.”

Earlier this week, a media release by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office labeled the Welcome to Palestine campaign as “part of an ongoing attempt to undermine Israel’s right to exist.”

After the detained activists were driven away from the airport, police officers began inspecting the press credentials of all the journalists present. Two journalists, carrying valid Israeli government issued press cards, were asked to leave the airport and were escorted to the exit by armed soldiers. The journalists, both well-known leftists, believe that they were asked to leave the airport because of their political affiliations with prominent left-wing groups in Israel. No other journalists were barred from covering the event.

Israeli journalist Hagai Mattar expelled from Ben Gurion airport by police, June 8 2011 (photo: Oren Ziv / activestills)

Israeli media is reporting that roughly 30-50 passengers have been detained and will be deported from Israel in the coming hours. Some passengers have made it through the passport controls and are currently on their way to Bethlehem where there will be a large celebration marking their arrival this evening.  Israeli lawyers are at the airport working with the detained passengers. Flights carrying activists are planned for the rest of the afternoon.

 

Posted at Uruknet
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Also see the following report by Noam Sheizaf

CANADIAN BOAT SEIZED BY GREEK COAST GUARD AS IT SAILS TO GAZA ~~ EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT

The Greek coast guard boarded the Canadian ship after the Greek authorities had banned the departure of all ships to Gaza from its ports.
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The Canadian ship ‘Tahrir’ participating in the Gaza flotilla at the Greek port of the Piraeus.

Photo by: Amira Hass*

Greek coast guard seizes Canadian ship bound for Gaza

Canadian ship ‘Tahrir’ tries to set sail for Gaza after Greek authorities had banned the departure of all ships to Gaza from its ports; all passengers due to be detained once returning to Greek port.

By Amira Hass

The Canadian ship “Tahrir”, participating in the flotilla to Gaza, attempted to depart Monday from the Greek port of Agios Nikolaos, but was intercepted by the Greek coast guard shortly after departure.

The Greek coast guard boarded the Canadian ship after the Greek authorities had banned the departure of all ships to Gaza from its ports.

As the Canadian ship departed from the port with all passengers on board wearing life vests, the Greek coastguard tracked the ship in the water and boarded it within minutes.

After seizing the ship, coast guard officers asked who was the captain but the passengers refused to reply, with every passenger saying that he was the captain.

Some of the passengers yelled “release our ship!” and one of the protesters asked two coast guard officers whether they had children, and whether they were thinking about the children in Gaza.

Greek coast guard officers are currently sailing the Tahrir back to the port, and the passengers are all due to be taken into custody by Greek authorities.

On Sunday, the organizers of the Gaza flotilla announced that the flotilla ships anchored in Greek ports are planning to set sail to Gaza on Monday. The decision came despite the Greek’s governments ban on any ships to depart from its ports to Gaza.

On Monday, as a compromise, the Greek government offered to send the flotilla’s humanitarian aid to Gaza with Greek diplomats, under United Nations supervision. Israel has agreed to the offer.

Written FOR

FLOTILLA TWO ~~ ROUNDUP OF UPDATES ~~ EYEWITNESS REPORTS AND PHOTOS

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Flotilla to sail ‘very soon’ despite snags
 

ATHENS, Greece (Ma’an) — Organizers of a US boat participating in the Gaza-bound flotilla said Thursday afternoon that they hoped to sail “very very soon,” with some expecting an immanent departure. 

 

Speaking to reporters and passengers alongside the ship, organizer Anne Wright said “we will sail to challenge the naval blockade of Gaza ,we have ten ships, we have passengers aged 22-87 … we have carpenters, retirees, acupuncturists; these are the people that the state of Israel fears.” 

 

Organizers stressed, following a press inspection of the ship, that the 3,000 letters from Americans to the Palestinians in Gaza were not “very dangerous cargo.” 

 

Pulitzer prize winning writer and ship passenger Alice Walker read out some of the letters. One read: “Stay strong and don’t give up on your freedom, there are millions of people who love you, love Elvira,” adding “”very dangerous material, yes?”

 

Wright, addressing concerns from NGOs that aid from the ships abdicated Israel of its responsibilities in Gaza, said the flotilla was a “symbolic, a political act,” explaining that if Israel wanted to stop the voyage – amid promises from the Israeli Navy that the ships would be halted – that they need to lift the blockade of Gaza. 

 

World outcry against the deaths of nine activists aboard a 2010 flotilla resulted in the easing of the blockade, though reports have since found that the majority of the promises made by Israeli officials to ease restrictions were not implemented. 

 

Until the blockade is over, Wright said, the flotilla aimed to “to let the Gaza people know that they have friends who care,” and galvanize international support. 

 

Earlier in the day, organizers from an Irish boat also set to sail to Gaza said their ship had been tampered with. 

 

Wright said the damage would cost some $25,000 to fix. 

 

Agence France Presse reported frustrated volunteers milling helplessly around Athens and cited organizers as saying they were making little headway with the Greek government over getting the necessary permission to sail.

 

“We have a dock order on us now,” Wright told passengers, “but we hope to sail very very soon,” and called on the Greek government to “stand tall” and facilitate the voyage. 

 

The problem with the Irish boat Saoirse – Gaelic for freedom – followed Monday’s news that the propeller on the Juliano boat, belonging to Swedish activists, had been cut.

 

Organizers of the US boat said they were still waiting for the go-ahead from Greek inspection officials, after a complaint was lodged to the port authority in Athens alleging that the ship was not seaworthy. The statement said the complaint was made by an Israeli group. 

 

An inspection was carried out Monday to verify the claims, which were allegedly made by a right wing Israeli group according to its website. 

 

“We have not yet received notification of their findings nor a copy of [the Greek government’s] report [on the allegations], but we are certain that our boat is up to code,” a statement from the group said. 

 

Officials noted the ship was also having problems with its insurance and blamed the complications on the US government, which they said was “placing great pressure on Greece” to prevent them from leaving.

 

US boat invites inspection of goods

 

Organizers called “outrageous” recent allegations that passengers on the flotilla had packed bringing chemicals for militant groups in Gaza. 

 

“There are radical elements on board the American boat who have said they want to kill Israeli soldiers,” said Israeli Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovitz on Tuesday. 

 

Activists in Greek port upbeat as flotilla departure faces delays

[MaanImages/Mya Guarnieri]

 

 

“We also know that one of the boats is carrying dangerous incendiary chemicals that these human rights militants want to use against Israeli soldiers,” she said.

 

“We are confident that such an inspection will show that our boat is ‘sulfur-free’ and ready to sail,” organizers wrote, re-stating that the ship would carry the personal possessions of the 36 crew members and passengers, as well as some 3,000 letters to Gaza from people in the United States. 

 

“I invite the media to ask us anything, inspect anything, taste our food, look inside our bags” activist and passenger Gale Courey Toensing said on behalf of the passengers in a news statement. 

 

“Our voyage is totally transparent and we have nothing to hide. All we want to do is sail to Gaza with our cargo of letters from Americans to the people of Gaza,” Toensing said, in an attempt to counter further allegations from Israeli officials that boats to Gaza posed a threat to the country’s security. 

 

A long wait 

 

Almost a week past its original sail date, some activists have said they are running out of time and money, and may not be able to see out the voyage if it is delayed much longer. Organizers have told some US boat passengers, however, that if they’re low on cash, they should speak to organizers who do have a slush fund to keep the group going.

 

Despite fears that activists will begin to pull out of the flotilla, organizers dismissed calls for those boats that are cleared to leave to set sail ahead of the others.

 

“We need to stick together. We’re not going to jump the gun by setting off in just a few of the boats before the others are ready,” said Leostic.

 

“Even if we can’t leave in the end, it’s not a defeat. Just getting this far has been a political victory,” she added.

 

US Ship – The Audacity of Hope [MaanImages/Mya Guarnieri]

 

 

Initially scheduled to sail on 26 June, the Audacity of Hope and nine other ships from 22 countries including Canada, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Spain, hope to reach the Gaza City Port in a symbolic challenge to Israel’s years’ long blockade of the Palestinian coastal enclave. 

 

Home to 1.6 million Palestinians, Gaza has been under siege for five years. Israel all but closed its borders with Gaza, preventing movement of people and goods between the Strip and the West Bank, cutting off families, friends and trade. Pressure on Egypt also kept closed the Rafah crossing Gaza shared with the country to the south, though the ouster of its former President Hosni Mubarak allowed some Palestinians to travel. 

 

A single commercial crossing remains open, strictly monitored by Israel, and solely for the import of what has risen in the last year to what UN observers say is 40 percent of pre-siege levels of goods. Imports remain banned. 

 

Fishing limits are enforced three nautical miles off the Gaza coast by Israeli naval ships, firing on fishermen who venture out of the zone, and all but stiffing the fish market. 

 

Since August 2008 ships have attempted to break the blockade by sea. Three voyages were successful, but nearly ten others were prevented from reaching Gaza by Israel’s military and naval forces. In Mary 2010, a fleet of six ships was apprehended in international waters by Israeli commandos, who shot nine passengers in an attempt to gain control of the largest vessel.

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Flotilla organizers: Greece aiding Israel in delaying departure

By Joseph Dana
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Live Update From Jewish Holocaust Survivor on U.S. Ship in Gaza Flotilla

From Democracy Now
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Sabotage of M.V. Saoirse in Turkey ‘an act of international terrorism’ 
From Irish Ship To Gaza (via Uruknet)
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With multiple ships disabled, Gaza flotilla organizers regroup in Greece

By Amira Hass
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GREAT NEWS FROM THE US BOAT TO GAZA….

July 1, 2011

At 4:45 pm Athens time (9:45 am east coast time, 6:45 am west coast time) today The Audacity of Hope left it’s dock in Athens.

We are waiting to see what the Greek authorities will do.

More updates will be coming later. Check HERE

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The latest not such great news…..

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July 1, 2011

At 10:18 am (NYC time) we received word that the Greek Coast Guard has stopped the boat. They told the people on our boat that the boat cannot continue, people are chanting “Let us sail to Gaza!” 

 

FLOTILLA UPDATES; SABOTAGE AND VICTORY

A scuba diver who examines the ship on a daily basis discovered Monday that the ship’s propeller shaft, which connects the transmission inside the vessel directly to the propeller, was cut off.
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Irish Boat to Gaza ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff
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Gaza flotilla activists: One of our ships was sabotaged

Israeli activist says his ship, which is docked in Greece’s Piraeus port, was found with its propeller shaft broken which he believes was a deliberate attempt at sabotage.

By Amira Hass

One of the ships due to participate in the Gaza flotilla was deliberately tampered with while it was docked in Greece’s Piraeus port, Gaza flotilla activists told Haaretz on Monday.

The ship, due to carry Greek, Norwegian, and Swedish passengers to Gaza, was found  with its propeller shaft broken, the ship’s spokesman Israeli activist Dror Feiler told Haaretz.

A scuba diver who examines the ship on a daily basis discovered Monday that the ship’s propeller shaft, which connects the transmission inside the vessel directly to the propeller, was cut off.

According to Feiler, there is no doubt that the action was a deliberate attempt at sabotage, which he believed also violated Greece’s sovereignty.

Even though the problem can be fixed, it is still unclear how long it would take, especially with Greece’s recently declared general strike on Tuesday and Wednesday.

This action adds to a series of delays that have kept the Gaza flotilla from sailing, including Greece’s determination to carry out additional non-routine examinations on several of the ships.

Earlier Monday, organizers of the Gaza flotilla accused Israel of pressuring Greece to halt the ships’ departure.

American activist Ann Wright told a news conference that Israel is mounting a “tremendous diplomatic offensive” to prevent the flotilla from setting sail.

Organizers urged the Greek government in a statement not to “become complicit in Israel’s illegal actions by succumbing to this pressure.”

Written FOR

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Meanwhile….
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Protesters urge Israel to lift Gaza blockade

Israel vows to stop international activists from breaking the siege on the Gaza Strip.
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Israel’s security cabinet has voted to prevent an international flotilla from reaching Gaza, by any means possible.

The group of boats is due to leave Greece in a few days. Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, says any resulting confrontation will be the responsibility of the organisers.

The Freedom Flotilla II is part of the “Free Gaza movement” – a coalition of human rights groups which sends ships to break Israel’s strict naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. In 2008 it successfully entered Gaza five times.

However, the movement has been intercepted on the past four voyages – including the lethal attack by Israeli forces on the Freedom Flotilla last year on May 31.

Nine people, mostly Turkish activists, were killed and many more injured.

Al Jazeera’s Barnaby Philips reports from the Greek capital, Athens.

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Source
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One Small Victory as Israel steps back a bit….
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Netanyahu rescinds decision to sanction journalists on board Gaza flotilla

PM changes tack: Israel won’t deport, bar foreign journalists aboard Gaza-bound vessels.

After a day in which every single news media outlet in the world seemed to weigh in, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday rescinded a Government Press Office decision to sanction any foreign journalist who participates in the Gaza Strip flotilla.

GPO director Oren Helman had announced on Sunday that any foreign journalist on the flotilla would be treated as an illegal infiltrator, meaning they would be deported and then barred from entering Israel for 10 years. But yesterday Netanyahu’s bureau issued a press release rescinding that decision.

“When the matter was brought to his attention, the prime minister directed that the regular policy against infiltrators and those who enter Israel illegally not be implemented,” the terse statement said. “It has also been agreed that members of the Israeli and international media will be attached to Israel Navy vessels in order to create transparency and credible coverage of the events.”

The Foreign Press Association, which had condemned Sunday’s decision for sending “a chilling message to the international media” that “raises serious questions about Israel’s commitment to freedom of the press,” welcomed yesterday’s reversal.

“We are pleased to see that Israel has recognized the value of allowing reporters to cover an important news event, and understands that journalists should be treated differently from political activists,” it said in a statement.

Sebastian Engelbrecht, a senior journalist from the German television network ARD, said that last year’s flotilla, in which nine people were killed, was the most widely covered news event in Germany; hence the media interest in this year’s sailing. Netanyahu, he added, did well to reverse course, as the attempt to bar journalists from covering the flotilla was “a provocation” unbefitting a democracy.

Last year’s flotilla, Engelbrecht continued, was “a terrible anti-Israel provocation,” and Israel should give thought to the mistakes it made in dealing with it. “A free press is a sign that Israel isn’t afraid and isn’t hiding anything,” he said.

Helman declined to comment yesterday.

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Source

REPORTING LIVE FROM THE AID FLOTILLA

Despite the presence of former State Department official Wright and former CIA officer Ray McGovern, the US government has largely bowed to Israeli pressure over the flotilla. Issuing a rare maritime warning this week to American vessels traveling near Gaza, Washington has effectively distanced itself from offering protection to its citizens if they are attacked by Israel on the open sea. The import of the message is, “We warned you not to go.”

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With the Gaza Aid Flotilla

By Joseph Dana
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Amid the economic and social upheaval of Greece’s beleaguered capital city, where demonstrators have been protesting government-imposed austerity measures, forty activists from across the United States began training this week to nonviolently confront the Israeli military blockade of Gaza. The Americans are part of a flotilla of ten ships—from France, Ireland, Canada, Norway, Greece, Sweden and other countries—planning to set out for Gaza’s main seaport in the next week to relieve the siege.

With an age gap of sixty years between the youngest and oldest passenger, the diverse group of Americans have taken over a hotel in a trendy Athens neighborhood for days of nonviolence training and preparation.

Israel has stated that it will enforce its naval blockade by any political, military and economic measures at its disposal. This week it submitted an urgent request to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asking for international cooperation in stopping the flotilla. Ban embraced the Israeli government’s position, arguing in a public statement that aid should be delivered to Gaza only through “legitimate crossings and established channels,” all of which are controlled by Israel. Ban added that the flotilla is not helpful in assisting the economy of Gaza and encouraged organizers to cancel their voyage.

According to flotilla organizers, who are reticent about their sources, Israel has been meeting with Greek officials in a bid to persuade them to block Gaza-bound ships leaving from their ports. Israel, organizers say, could use economic incentives at a delicate time of EU-imposed austerity to put pressure on Athens. In recent years Greece and Israel have expanded trade ties, have carried out joint air force exercises and have begun discussions on a joint pipeline project that would exploit vast new Israeli natural gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean.

“Israel has pulled out the stops in trying to get the flotilla to stop before it begins by threatening the Greek economy,“ said Ann Wright, a retired State Department official and former Army colonel who is the main organizer of the US boat to Gaza. Sitting in the lobby of the noisy Athens hotel, she added, “Greece is caught in the middle. There is tremendous public support for the flotilla, but the government is getting pounded by the Israelis.” Not naming her sources, Wright, visibly exhausted from a year of organizing for the flotilla, contended that “Israel is going to try to sink the Greek economy if they allow the flotilla to sail from Greek ports.”

In response to the growing pressure, the Greek foreign ministry released a public statement on June 22 regarding its own citizens sailing with the flotilla. According to the statement, the ministry “urges Greek citizens as well as Greek-registered vessels not to participate in the new flotilla headed for the Gaza port.”

“Everything is explained in great detail,” foreign ministry spokesman Georgy Delavekouras told me over the phone from his office in Athens, referring to the statement. However, the statement is vague and does not say whether Greece will stop Gaza-bound ships registered in other countries.

Confirming that meetings between Greece and Israel have taken place recently over “many issues, including the flotilla,” Delavekouras said the Israeli government has not applied economic pressure. When pressed on the nature of the Israeli-Greek discussions, he simply referred to the statement.

Israel is doing everything possible to avoid a repeat of last year’s flotilla debacle, when Israeli commandos stormed the largest of six boats, the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, and killed nine passengers, including one Turkish-American citizen, as they seized control of the ship.

Last week Turkish organizers pulled out of this year’s flotilla, citing “technical problems.” Flotilla organizers in Greece believe Israeli diplomatic and military pressure was the primary motivation for the cancellation. Citing internal discussions with their Turkish counterparts, flotilla organizers believe the Turkish government intervened directly to block the Mavi Marmara after negotiations with Israel.

Writing in the English-language Turkish daily Hurriyet on Monday, columnist Semih Idiz argued that the Turkish government probably did intervene to stop the Mavi Marmara’s participation, even though both the government and the IHH, the Islamic charity sponsoring the boat, have denied it. Citing growing tensions on the Turkey-Syria border, Idiz argued that Ankara is simply not prepared for a fresh crisis with Israel, especially since the two countries have been working to mend ties since last year’s disaster. While speculative, his analysis is echoed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent calls for the need to repair Turkish-Israeli relations.

Regardless of the pressure, the American boat, dubbed the Audacity of Hope after the title of President Obama’s autobiography, is determined to sail from an undisclosed Greek port with its passengers, among them Pulitzer Prize–winning author Alice Walker and 87-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein. Unlike other ships in the flotilla, the US boat will be carrying only personal letters from American citizens to Gaza Palestinians. Boats from Ireland, Canada, France and Greece will be carrying goods ranging from medical supplies to sewage repair systems. The American boat, and perhaps some of the others, will be outfitted with advanced satellite communications systems that—if Israel does not jam them—will allow passengers to use social media platforms such as Twitter directly from the boat.

Despite the presence of former State Department official Wright and former CIA officer Ray McGovern, the US government has largely bowed to Israeli pressure over the flotilla. Issuing a rare maritime warning this week to American vessels traveling near Gaza, Washington has effectively distanced itself from offering protection to its citizens if they are attacked by Israel on the open sea. The import of the message is, “We warned you not to go.”

On the top deck of a recently refurbished ferryboat, the enormity of the upcoming voyage was visible on many of the US passengers’ faces. They busied themselves with tasking who would be cooking, maintaining lookout and helping with the upkeep of the ship while on the sea, but the nervous excitement of the pending journey was difficult for most to conceal.

“If the Israeli public could look around and see these wonderful people going on this boat, I think they would take pause and wonder what it is that Israel is doing in Gaza that has caused these types of people to risk their lives in challenging it,” Code Pink and Global Exchange founder Medea Benjamin noted on a bus ride through Athens. “I’m scared about going on this boat because I know the Israelis might attack us and my American passport is not going to protect me, but at the same time I feel incredibly privileged.”

During an intense day of nonviolence training in a dank underground karate studio in Athens, US passengers watched graphic videos of the Israeli raid last year on the Mavi Marmara. Anticipating how the Israeli navy will attempt to take over the Audacity of Hope, the organizers rehearsed violent scenarios in which Israeli soldiers beat passengers as they boarded the ship.

“We are making sure that the passengers will be able to stay calm in whatever scenario they face as they approach Gaza,” one of the organizers remarked in a break from the training. She added that the most important objective is that passengers remain nonviolent even if the Israelis provoke them with attack dogs, tear gas or—in the worst case—live ammunition shot from helicopters hovering above the ship.

With the participation of unarmed, older civilians, many of whom are Jewish, the Gaza flotilla may have found Israel’s Achilles heel, a way to neutralize its military prowess. The internationalization of nonviolent protest, also seen in the years-long demonstrations against Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank, is drawing worldwide attention to Israel’s occupation and control over Palestinian life. So far, Israel has shown that it is ill equipped to stop it. 

 

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Al Jazeera adds…

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The Stream – Freedom Flotilla 2

Israeli diplomatic and economic pressure is looming large over preparations of the second Gaza aid flotilla, set to sail from a number Greek ports at the end of the month. Israel has clearly stated that it will use every diplomatic and military avenue to maintain its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. The events of the past few days in Athens confirm that Israel is making good on its claim. Learning from last year’s botched military operation against the flotilla – which left eight Turkish civilians and one Turkish-American civilian dead – Israel is seemingly applying pressure directly on the Greek government to stop the flotilla boats from setting sail.
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PHOTO ESSAY OF ETHNIC CLEANSING IN ACTION

Tear gas canisters were fired directly at protesters, houses and even inside homes, a protesters were rendered unconscious and several of the village’s children suffered from fainting and exhaustion from the fumes. At one point, Israeli soldiers went house to house looking for international or Israeli activists to arrest. Over five people were detained in the course of the demonstration.

PHOTOS: Protest in Nabi Saleh consumed by tear gas

                             Posted by Joseph Dana


Unusually high levels of tear gas were used in an attempt to crush the weekly unarmed demonstration today at Nabi Saleh.

Roughly 40 new (and many first time) Israeli supporters joined the demonstration today, led by IPCRI director Gershom Baskin. From the demonstration, Baskin repeatedly contacted the Israeli army and informed them of the high numbers of Israelis present and the desire to maintain a non-violent, unarmed demonstration. Despite this, the demonstrators were only able to march about 100 meters inside the village before they were attacked by tear gas.

Tear gas canistered were fired directly at prosters, houses and even inside homes, a protesters were rendered unconscious and several of the village’s children suffered from fainting and exhaustion from the fumes. At one point, Israeli soldiers went house to house looking for international or Israeli activists to arrest. Over five people were detained in the course of the demonstration.

See photos from the demonstration below. All photos and their captions are taken from my Twitter feed which I updated live and from the scene. Please forgive the poor quality of my Blackberry camera. For more on my use of the social media platform Twitter and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, watch my recent interview with Al Jazeera’s The Stream streaming on their website.

The press at Nabi Saleh. About 100 people showed up for the demonstration today, including a large number of Israelis. Later, a BBC was almost hit directly in the head by a tear gas canister. (photo: Joseph Dana)
Nabi Saleh under major attack, far more gas than normal (photo: Joseph Dana)
A protester lost consciousness after inhaling tear gas (photo: Joseph Dana)
Children suffocating inside houses after an attack with tear gas (Photo:Joseph Dana)Children suffocating inside houses after an attack with tear gas (Photo:Joseph Dana)
While the unconsious protester received treatment, the house he was in was pelted with ten rounds of gas (photo: Joseph Dana)
Several of the village children were affected by the tear gas, exhausted and laying on the floor (photo: Joseph Dana)
Stone throwing began in the village, and soldiers targeted the stone throwing youth directly (photo: Joseph Dana)
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WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT THE RAFAH CROSSING

The media covered the statement of opening Rafah passage Permanently ; Today we went to observe what’s happening at the entrance of Rafah and we were shocked with what we’ve witnessed!
Please watch the video to realize the truth of the circumstances at Rafah crossing.
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PALESTINE: BIRTHPLACE OF THE ‘ARAB SPRING’

The Arab Uprising Hasn’t Suddenly Arrived In Palestine — It’s Always Been Here

Posted By Joseph Dana
This weekend, Israeli security forces engaged in a bloody crackdown on unarmed protesters.
  
Photo Credit: Joseph Dana
Demonstrations marking the 63rd anniversary of the Nakba – the anniversary of Palestinians’ displacement in 1948 – were held throughout the West Bank, Gaza and inside Israel this week. The focal point of West Bank Nakba day demonstrations was the Qalandia checkpoint. During the second Palestinian intifada, the checkpoint was a flashpoint for riots between Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers.

“Our movement is an outgrowth of the unarmed protest movement throughout the West Bank,” Ramallah-based youth organizer Fadi Quran told me as Palestinian demonstrators gathered on the outskirts of his city to mark Nakba day. Quran has become the face of a movement of urban Palestinians revolutionizing the face of Palestinian resistance in the wake of the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings. As we spoke, Palestinians from all political affiliations gathered outside of the Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Certainly, the demonstration on Sunday conjured images of the intifada; stone-throwing Palestinian youth in front of burning tires at the edge of a refugee camp battling fully armed Israeli soldiers firing rubber bullets at protesters. However, it was not the start of a third intifada as some pundits speculated in the days prior to the demonstrations. Sunday was the start of something different; an unarmed movement endowed with deep insight into Israel’s heavy handed response to Palestinian resistance and connected to the world using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Faced with boiling discontent in the West Bank, Israel moved quickly and violently against demonstrations in Qalandia as well as similar ones held in East Jerusalem, Hebron and the village of Al Walaja just outside of Jerusalem. Israel was caught off guard on its northern borders with Syria and Lebanon as Palestinians breached fences and entered the Occupied Golan Heights. As night fell, 13 Palestinian demonstrators had been killed and hundreds more had been injured in clashes. Military officials quickly filled the Israeli news cycle explaining the difficult challenges that mass unarmed protest created for the world’s fourth most powerful army.

Hundreds of Palestinians from all political factions marched in Qalandia on Nakba day under the national Palestinian flag with the goal of reaching Jerusalem. Hundreds of Israeli soldiers quickly engulfed the demonstration in clouds of tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. Despite the heavy handed crowd control measures, demonstrators quickly regrouped and continued to walk to Jerusalem. This routine continued for roughly seven hours.

“I have not seen this type of tear gas used by the Israelis,” Dr. Sami Dar Nakhla, director of the triage center, told me in the midst of the clashes. “People are having seizures from the tear gas and there are many cases of unconsciousness. It is as bad as the Second Intifada.” Nakhla told me he had handled at least 20 medium to serious injuries from rubber-coated steel bullets fired by soldiers at demonstrators, including one gunshot wound to the face. The Israel Defense Forces spokesman reported a handful of light injuries in the course of the clashes.

As the afternoon wore on, Palestinian youth attacked soldiers with stones, and purportedly a number of Molotov cocktails. There was even a futile attempt to upend a portion of the eight-meter-high concrete wall that constitutes the Qalandia separation barrier. This provoked a heavy handed reaction from the army as undercover Israeli police officers dressed as Palestinian protesters aggressively attacked the demonstration, arresting five minors in front of international press photographers. 

“Palestinians understand that we have a chance to create new awareness of the dimensions of Israel’s occupation in September [with the UN statehood recognition vote],” Leana Tamimi, a Ramallah-based youth organizer told me. “What you are seeing here in Qalandia and all over the West Bank is a demonstration of our unity ahead of the vote.”

The Nakba day demonstration at Qalandia was a small but crucial step forward for the new form of unarmed Palestinian resistance led by the March 15 movement. Full of harsh criticism for Palestinian leadership and struggling to breathe under an increasingly brutal military occupation, young urban Palestinians are confronting the systemic challenges to Palestinian existence in the Occupied Territories. Inspired by other Middle Eastern revolutions, the March 15 movement is abandoning armed struggle in favor of a model of resistance characterized by non-compliance with Israeli occupation, Palestinian unity and international isolation of Israel through boycott campaigns.

Many in the international press are claiming the Nakba day protests show that the Arab spring has arrived in Palestine. In Qalandia, this statement was not true. It was Palestinians who organized mass unarmed resistance against Israeli occupation in the late 1980s. It was Palestinians who organized civilian demonstrations in Ramallah and Hebron during the first months of the Second Intifada despite harsh military repression in the form of over one million bullets fired by the Israeli army. It is in villages like Bil’in, Budrus and Nabi Saleh that Palestinians have continued this spirit of unarmed resistance every week for the past eight years despite continued Israeli attacks. The Arab spring has not arrived in Palestine; it has always been here. 

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More on the Struggle and how the Western Media sees it…..

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The Atlantic has not heard of the joint struggle in the West Bank?

Posted by Joseph Dana

Something caught my eye when looking through photos on The Atlantic of the Nakba day demonstrations which engulfed the West Banks and Israel’s border areas last Sunday.

Image 16, reprinted below, carries the following caption: Two Palestinian men struggle after being overcome by tear gas fired during clashes with the Israeli police on May 15, 2011 at Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah, West Bank. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Actually one of the men is an Israeli from Tel Aviv named Jonathan Pollak. I suppose The Atlantic was not aware that Israeli supporters joined the Nakba demonstrations throughout the West Bank on Sunday. Maybe the editors have not heard of the Israelis that have gone to jail or been injured resisting their country’s repression of unarmed Palestinian demonstrations. Perhaps they should have a look at the definitive account of the joint struggle and the new Israeli left which Noam Sheizaf and I wrote for the Nation in March 2011.

I think that the photo is much stronger seeing an Israeli and a Palestinian side by side suffering from Israeli tear gas…don’t you?

Photo from the Atlantic of an Israeli and Palestinian suffering from Tear Gas in Qalandia 15 May 2011

Photo from the Atlantic of an Israeli and Palestinian suffering from Tear Gas in Qalandia 15 May 2011

UPDATE:

As you can see in the comment thread, The Atlantic has kindly changed the caption of the above photo to: [Edit, this caption previously identified both men as Palestinian. The man on the right may be Jonathan Pollak, an Israeli.]. I was at Qalandia watching this photograph being taken and can personally confirm that this person is Jonathan Pollak.

Now we need a post from Atlantic blogger Jeffery Goldberg exploring the new Israeli left and Israelis like Pollak who risk life and limb in order to stand with Palestinians resisting occupation without arms…

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Joseph Dana and myself want to take this opportunity to thank those readers of DesertPeace who contributed to Joseph’s Fund Raising Appeal. The goal was met thanks to all of you!

THE ‘ZIO SKUNKS’ IN OUR MIDST

In the past year, the ‘Skunk’ has become a mainstay of West Bank demonstrations against the Separation Wall and Occupation. A non-lethal alternative to high velocity tear gas canisters and rubber coated steel bullets which still extracts a heavy price on Palestinians who resist Occupation through creative nonviolence.

Another price for nonviolent Palestinian resistance: the ‘Skunk’

Posted by Joseph Dana

How do I convey the smell of the ‘Skunk’?  Imagine rolling around the floor of a dairy farm for a few hours and the subsequent smell of your skin. A smell so overbearing that people can’t bear to be in the same room with you. Now, imagine that you can’t get that smell two weeks. This is the smell of the ‘Skunk.’

In the past year, the ‘Skunk’ has become a mainstay of West Bank demonstrations against the Separation Wall and Occupation. A non-lethal alternative to high velocity tear gas canisters and rubber coated steel bullets which still extracts a heavy price on Palestinians who resist Occupation through creative nonviolence.

Last Friday, the tiny village of Nabi Saleh held a demonstration against the Occupation. Brave Palestinians embracing the tradition of nonviolence which typified the struggle for civil rights in the American south have been demonstrating  for almost two years along with Israeli and international supporters. After midday prayers on Friday, demonstrators began to march to the village’s agricultural spring, which has been taken over by settlers with the blessing of the Israeli army. They were greeted by soldiers.

The soldiers attacked the demonstrators with tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets and stun grenades. Despite the violence, the villagers continued to march to the spring when the ‘Skunk’ was brought to the scene.

At first, the ‘Skunk’ was sprayed from a large armoured car on the village’s main road. It did not stop the demonstrators. Three Israeli supporters were then thrown to the ground, handcuffed and then dragged through the chemical ‘Skunk’ muck covering the streets. After the arrest, the army blanketed the area in tear gas and most of the demonstrators fled to the village centre for fresh air.  With no demonstrators left to deal with, the army decided to use the ‘Skunk’ on civilian homes. Clearly, the army rarely misses an opportunity to collectively punish Nabi Saleh for its nonviolent resistance.

The ‘Skunk’ is a petrochemical designed to cling to any surface that it touches.  Once I was hit with the ‘Skunk’ during a demonstration in Bil’in. I had to throw out everything that the chemical touched as it was impossible to wash out the smell. My backpack, pants, shirt, even my shoes and the notebook I was carrying to take notes had to be thrown out. The smell stayed on my skin and in my hair for weeks after, which created an interesting conversation piece as everyone I would encounter gave me strange looks.

The families of the homes hit by the ‘Skunk’ on Friday will not be able to return for weeks.  Their houses smell worse than dairy farms as the chemical has penetrated every surface.  For them, it is another reminder of Israeli control over their lives.  For the village, it is another price to pay for nonviolent resistance to domination.

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FIVE DAYS OF TERROR IN THE WEST BANK

The Israeli military finally left the village of Awarta after days of lockdown and curfew. The West Bank town has long been home to settler attacks and violence. Where is their justice?


According to eyewitnesses, around 300 Israeli settlers, of whom some were masked, entered the village on saturday the 12th of March and threw stones at windows, injuring two Awarta residents by breaking their arms. Villagers tried to protect homes while israeli soldiers responded by shooting teargas at the villagers.

Village of Awarta faced mass arrests, violence and massive destruction during five days of curfew

During the five day curfew in the village of Awarta, south of Nablus, the Israeli military raided homes and detained around 300 people, the youngest 14 years old. Some of the men were taken to the local boy school were they had to leave their finger prints and DNA and some were taken to the military base at Huwwra checkpoint. According to mayor, Qays Awwad, 55 men are still in Israeli custody. Some of the detainees reported that they had been abused by the soliders while they were detained and handcuffed. It has been reported that a 75 year old woman was handcuffed and had to sit on the ground while the soliders went through her home, and that an 80-year-old woman was beaten by soliders.

Three scandinavian ISM activists were in Awarta during the five day curfew, from saturday afternoon until wednesday noon. From the roofs of people’s houses they witnessed how the Israeli soliders went into homes, arrested men and made the familes wait outside while they raided their homes resulting in large scale damage to property. The ISM activists also visited homes that soldiers had searched to find broken windows, cut fuse-cables, smashed furniture, and polluted drinking water caused by Israeli soldiers.

Hundreds of soldiers entered the village in military vehicles early on the morning of the 12th of march, following the murder of five members of a settler family in the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Itamar. According to the soliders, they were searching for the murderer and would continue until they found one. One soldier told ISM activists, ”we will serch this village until we find someone.” In the process of ”searching” the houses the sodiers damaged framed pictures, funiture, Tv-sets, gasheaters, smashed holes in floors and walls, stole money and jewlery, and poured liquids over computers. The Israeli forces occupied around 30 houses to sleep in during the four nights they remained in Awarta. In some of the houses they evicted the families who had to seak shelter outdoors or in neighbours homes during the night; in others they forced the families to stay in one room as the soldiers occupied the rest of the house. In occupied houses the sodiers deficated in the rooms and used the famlies bed sheets as toilet paper.

Alot of the houses were ”searched” and wrecked up to three times over five days. The soldiers did not seem to follow any apperent pattern when choosing which house to search or who to arrest, ”It all looked very random ” one activist said. In at least one case, on monday the 14th of march, the soldiers still did not know the name of the man that they had previously arrested and had to ask his family for it. The man that they had arrested was village council member Salim Qawaric. Approxametely 25 soliders entered his house causing severe damage on the family’s property while the family had to wait in the backyard. The following day the soldiers came back and searched the home once again resulting in further damage to the family’s home and property.

The ISM activists were not allowed to take pictures, and when they did it anyway, they soldiers pointed their guns at them shouting: ”Do not take pictures!” One of the activists had her memory card stolen by a soldier who took her camera from her by force.

During the cerfew many families ran short of gas, food, water and medicine.

There have been numerous reports of physical abuse. According to eyewitnesses, Mashmod Zaqah, 28, had his hands cuffed behind his back and was blindfolded before he was beaten by at least six soldiers during a period of two hours, periodicly he lost consciousness and couldnt feel his legs or fingers. His family managed to smuggle him to Rafidia hospital in Nablus. He suffers a dislocated shoulder, back injuries, and a badly twisted ankle.

According to eyewitnesses, around 300 Israeli settlers, of whom some were masked, entered the village on saturday the 12th of March and threw stones at windows, injuring two Awarta residents by breaking their arms. Villagers tried to protect homes while israeli soldiers responded by shooting teargas at the villagers.

It has been reported that children were bitten by the israeli military dogs that the soldiers had with them. A young physically disabled man was bitten by a dog which resulted in his hospitalisation. Loay Medjet Abdet is now scared to go inside his own home because he believes the dogs will attack him again.

For the activists, it was clear that the repression against Awarta was only a form of collective punishment. When one activist asked: ”Why do you have to punish all this people?” The solider responded with: ”We have to punish these people so they will understand.”

Even though this kind of systematic collective punishment is illegal according to International law, is it frequently used by the Israeli military all over the West Bank and in Gaza.

When medical vehicles tried to access the area they were stopped by Israeli forces. ISM activists went to the checkpoint near Awarta on March 15 and reported that ambulances were being held several hours before they could enter the village. As an occupying force, Israel is obligated under article 56 of the Geneva Conventions not to hinder the work of medical personnel in a conflict zone.

 

 

Source via Uruknet

 

 

Also see the following report….

Perpetual Collective Punishment in Awarta

IN PALESTINE: A NEW ‘CONTROLLED’ INTIFADA?

Riding the wave of unrest in the Arab world, the PA called for a carefully controlled ‘day of rage’ throughout the West Bank against the United States for their recent veto of an internationally accepted resolution declaring (once again) that Israeli settlement activity is illegal.
  

Hebron demonstration signals a new intifada in the West Bank?

Posted by Joseph Dana

Riding the wave of unrest in the Arab world, the PA called for a carefully controlled ‘day of rage’ throughout the West Bank against the United States for their recent veto of an internationally accepted resolution declaring (once again) that Israeli settlement activity is illegal. While in Ramallah the PA sponsored demonstration was weak with almost no one showing up, in Hebron one thousand people, including Israeli peace activists, took to the streets. Feburary 25th also happened to be the Open Shuhada Street Global Day of Action. Organized by the Palestinian NGO, Youth Against Settlements, protests were held in more than thirteen cities including New York, Cape Town, London and Rome. The demonstration was called for 25th February because it marks the anniversary of the Baruch Goldstein massacre and subsequent closing of Shuhada street to Palestinians. The Global Day of Action demands for the re-opening of Shuhada Street to Palestinians and an end to the Occupation. All of the factors for present for a peaceful demonstration to get out of hand. With the first salvo of tear gas, the demonstration quickly turned into a riot.  

Demonstration in Hebron on Friday 25 Feb 2011. Photo: Activestills.org
Demonstration in Hebron on Friday 25 Feb 2011. Photo: Activestills.org

 According to Open Shuhada Street, a South African based advocacy website,

Shuhada Street used to be the principal street for Palestinian residents, businesses and a very active market place in the Palestinian city of Hebron/ al Khaleel. Today, because Shuhada Street runs through the Jewish settlement of Hebron, the street is closed to Palestinian movement and looks like a virtual ghost street, which only Israelis and tourists are allowed to access. Hate graffiti has been sprayed across the closed Palestinian shops and Palestinians living on the street have to enter and exit their houses through their back doors or, even sometimes by climbing over neighbor’s roofs.We are focusing on Shuhada Street as a symbol of the settlement issue, the policy of separation in Hebron/al Khaleel and the entire West Bank, the lack of freedom of movement, and the Occupation at large.

Winding through the narrow ally ways of the ancient city of Hebron, one thousand demonstrators reached Shuhada street around 12h30 on Friday. A massive force of Israeli soldiers/border police were waiting for them and had formed an impenetrable line. Soldiers had stationed themselves on surrounding rooftops in order to have complete control and ability to repress the demonstration at any point. This is exactly what happened.
 
Demonstration in Hebron on Friday 25 Feb 2011. Photo: Activestills.org
Demonstration in Hebron on Friday 25 Feb 2011. Photo: Activestills.org
 
Soldiers began firing indiscriminately at protesters, using tear gas canisters as large bullets. A thousand people spread in every direction and chaos ensued. Palestinian youth began throwing rocks at the attacking soldiers. Due to the political climate in Hebron, a Palestinian Authority police force was deployed on the borderline between Palestinian H1 and Israeli H2 in order to stop Palestinians from joining the clashes. The scene was bizarre in its layout: the empty and deserted Shuhada street filled with Palestinian, International and Israeli demonstrators inspired by the tide of revolution spreading in the Arab world, caught between heavily armed Israeli border police guarding Jewish settlers on one side and armed (but not so heavily) Palestinian Authority police on the other trying to keep Palestinians from joining.
 
PA police in Hebron demonstration 25 Feb 2011. Photo: Activestills.org
PA police in Hebron demonstration 25 Feb 2011. Photo: Activestills.org
 
Clashes continued and intensfied. A number of Israeli demonstrators were detained by border police but released. Palestinians and Israelis were injured as the rampaging soldiers pushed closer to the PA controlled area of H1. More Israelis were detained and released. One reporter from Al Jazzera was arrested and charged with stone throwing. At the time of this writing, he remains in an Israeli jail. After two hours of cat and mouse clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers, the demonstration was finished. The PA police, however, remained on the streets in order to ensure that another demonstration would not break out, this time against the PA itself.
 
Demonstration in Hebron 25 Feb 2011. Photo: Activestills.org
Demonstration in Hebron 25 Feb 2011. Photo: Activestills.org
 
From the vantage point of nonviolent demonstration, last Friday’s demonstration was not as much a success as it was an indicator of what is to come in the West Bank. The nature of the demonstration reinforced the notion that Palestinians are ready for a new wave of popular civilian resistance to the Israeli Occupation and its agents (the Palestinian Authority?). Israeli peace activists, who have courageously struggled for the past eight years against the separation wall and Occupation in many Palestinian border villages, will soon have difficult and important questions to ask themselves. Namely, if a third intifada breaks out and there is mass unarmed resistance in Palestinian cities, will the village model of ‘joint struggle’ survive and translate to the urban context? Direct action for Israelis supporting Palestinian nonviolence has been confined, by and large, to villages for the past years. Some activists associated with the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity movement have been forging relationships in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where the last six months have seen serious urban clashes. Members of Anarchists Against the Wall routinely visit demonstrations when they happen in Qalandiya and Hebron. Yet, there has been an absence of large scale resistance to Israeli Occupation emanating from the cities in the past years and the villages such as Bil’in and Nabi Saleh have been centers of violent clashes.
 
Demonstration in Hebron 25 Feb 2011. Photo: Activestills.org
Demonstration in Hebron 25 Feb 2011. Photo: Activestills.org
 
Many Palestinians believe that another Intifada is inevitable and almost all argue that it is going to be in the spirit and style of the First Intifada. This means that massive unarmed civilian resistance will sweep through the West Bank in a similar way that it has throughout the Arab world from Egypt to Libya. It remains to be seen weather there will be large scale Israeli support in these demonstrations to bring about the end to Occupation and resistance to Israeli domination.
 
 
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NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND …. UNLESS IT’S A PALESTINIAN CHILD

The Israeli Forces attacked and shot rubber bullets and sound bombs at the children so they could not run away, and then proceeded to arrest 13 of them. Several army vehicles came into the area for support, attacking houses and cars to frighten people so they could not come to the children’s defense.

Image by David Baldinger

Israeli Army Targeting Children in Beit Ummar

Posted by Joseph Dana

The Israeli army has been arresting children in the village of Nabi Saleh for the past two months as a means of applying pressure on the village to end its popular unarmed resistance against the occupation. On Saturday 19 February, Israeli army officials adopted a similar strategy against the southern West Bank village of Beit Ummar. The village has been holding weekly unarmed demonstrations against the occupation and the confiscation of their land by illegal Jewish settlements such as Karmaei Tzur.

Demonstration in  Beit Ummar. Photo: PSPDemonstration in Beit Ummar. Photo: PSP 

The weekly demonstration on Saturday attracted supporters from other villages including Nabi Saleh, Susya, Tuwani and Wad Rahel as well as Israeli and international demonstrators. The demonstration remained nonviolent despite the excessive use of tear gas and sound bombs by Israeli soldiers. After one hour, the demonstration was finished with no arrests or injuries.

According to the Palestine Solidarity Project, one of the organizing groups of the demonstrations, a special forces unit of the Israeli army entered the village at 15h00 following the demonstration. Soldiers took over the house of one resident of the village, a common practice throughout the West Bank, and then began an attack. According to the press release issued by the PSP, “Other soldiers, accompanied by special units, invaded a park full of children between the ages of 12 and 15 years. The Israeli Forces attacked and shot rubber bullets and sound bombs at the children so they could not run away, and then proceeded to arrest 13 of them. Several army vehicles came into the area for support, attacking houses and cars to frighten people so they could not come to the children’s defense. The army shot tear gas and sound bombs toward women who attempted to rescue the youth, and then beat a group of women, including Mona Abu Maria. The army arrested 13 children, all of whom are under the age of 18, and took them out of the village. Their families do not yet know where they are being held”

The method of using children to crush unarmed protest movements has been proven successful in villages like Ni’ilin where the demonstrations against the Separation Wall have been rendered meaningless. Now, the main target of this form of repression is the village of Nabi Saleh.  No Nabi Saleh popular committee leaders has been arrested as of the time of this writing but activists connected to the demonstrations worry that it is only a matter of time. On Tuesday 22 February, 14 year old Islam Tamimi will begin his trial in an Israeli military court. His testimony, possibly obtained by torture methods such as sleep deprivation, exposure to the elements and beating, could be used to frame the leaders of the popular committee. Israel has perfected a method to destroy legitimate unarmed resistance in the West Bank leaving the possibility of a new armed resistance movement which would spell disaster for both sides.

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ISRAELI ARMY NEVER MISSES AN OPPORTUNITY TO MISS AN OPPORTUNITY

The army seems to never miss an opportunity to attack unarmed demonstrations in the West Bank even when mainstream Israeli news is filming.

The army never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity

Posted by Joseph Dana

Right wing pundits have often said that Palestinians, when in talks with Israel, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The more time that I spend in the West Bank and watch the behavior of the Israeli army towards Palestinians, the more I feel that the statement should be said about the army. The weekly demonstration in Bil’in last Friday is a perfect example.

The Bil'in Demonstration Before Tear Gas. Photo: Joseph DanaThe Bil’in Demonstration Before Tear Gas. Photo: Joseph Dana 

The demonstration was much smaller than the previous weeks. However, there was a television crew from Israeli Channel 2 present. We were told that they had another crew embedded with the army for a story about the demonstration which would air on a weekend news show. As we marched to the barrier, I was eager to see how the army would handle the demonstration with the presence of such important Israeli media. Would they not fire any tear gas? Would they arrest people?

We arrived at the barrier and the chanting began. The demonstration was in honor of Jonathan Pollak and a number of demonstrators formed a peace sign each holding a photo of Pollak. Twenty minutes into the demonstration there was no tear gas. Soldiers threw a couple of sound bombs and had resorted to spraying demonstrators with the ’skunk,’ a horrible petrochemical that smells like shit and stays on your skin for weeks, but there was no tear gas. I told one of the Channel 2 people that it was unusual that the army had restrained on the gas and the reason was most likely the crew’s presence.

The Army Gases Us as We are Leaving. Photo: Joseph DanaThe Army Gases Us as We are Leaving. Photo: Joseph Dana 

As we were talking some Palestinian youth began to throw stones at the barrier and soldiers. Great, I thought to myself, Channel 2 is going to paint this whole thing as a violent riot. The Israeli public will eat it up and use it to support their claim that the army can do no wrong in their treatment of unarmed demonstrations in the West Bank.

The stone throwers were calmed down after a short time by leaders of the popular committee in Bil’in. Mohammad Khatib, the coordinator of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, read a brilliant speech by Gandhi on the megaphone and then informed the crowd in three languages, English, Arabic and Hebrew, that the demonstration was over. He thanked everyone for coming, invited all of us for tea and vowed that we will return next week and the week after and the week after.

Tear Gas in Bil'In. Photo: Joseph DanaTear Gas in Bil’In. Photo: Joseph Dana 

Oren Ziv, the incredible photographer with Activestills, walked next to me as we made our way to the village. “This is a historical event,” he said, “There was no tear gas in Bil’in!” Exactly as he said those words to me, the gate to the barrier opened behind us and 30 soldiers entered and began chasing the demonstrators. Suddenly, there was tear gas in every direction and big clouds were engulfing parts of the Channel 2 news crew. Without warning and as we were walking back to the village, we were all attacked with gas.

I ran to the Channel 2 reporter who I had been chatting with throughout the day. “Do you see?” I asked in a huff. “This is how it normally is here. We just said on the megaphone that the demo is over!” She was in disbelief and clearly shaken by what she had experienced. As if she came out of a shell, she began agreeing with me, “Yes yes, yes, I will make sure it goes into the report. This is just insane!”

So there you have it. The army seems to never miss an opportunity to attack unarmed demonstrations in the West Bank even when mainstream Israeli news is filming. So, how is Channel 2 going to show the events of day?

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SATANICAL RABBIS

The Torah, after all, was supposed to be a light upon humanity. But when it becomes, thanks to those rabbis of Satan, a tool for genocide, there is obviously a huge catch-22 hanging over Judaism’s conscience.

The rabbis of the devil
By Khalid Amayreh

Imagine, just imagine, the outcry that would follow an imagined call by a European Muslim or Christian religious leader suggesting sending hundreds of thousands of Jews to concentration camps.  The Sheikh or priest or  bishop would be lambasted  beyond imagination, and his  denomination  or church  would immediately distance itself from his foolish remarks. 

Political authorities would also declare that Nazi-minded Sheikh or bishop has no place in modern Europe and that governments would nip the hateful and racist elements in the bud. In short, he would be looked upon  as a pariah, to say the very least. He even might be forced to commit suicide under public pressure.

As to Jewish circles, their protests would be clarion and omnipresent.

But how would things look like if such a call took place in Israel and was made by a popular rabbi, with hundreds of thousands of followers?

According to a weekly Hebrew magazine, several rabbis, including the rabbi of Safad, Shmuel Eliyahu,  recently proposed  the establishment of death camps for the Palestinians.

The magazine indicated that the creation of these camps would be the duty of all devout Jews.

The Yedeot Ahronot’s YNet on Saturday, 15 January quoted the rabbis  as stating that the Torah requires Jews to wipe out any trace of the so-called Amalek in Palestine . Many religious Jews refer to their perceived or real enemies as Amalek.

The YNet quoted Jewish intellectual Audi Aloni as saying that calls for the extermination of Palestinians are openly made in the synagogues as the genocidal idea has become a practical option.

“No one objected to Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safad and Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Chief Rabbi of Beit El, who undersigned the advisory opinion, which suggested approval for their opinion.”

I realize that these evil men don’t represent Jews everywhere, nor do they even represent the entire rabbinic community. There are many esteemed rabbis who reject outright the satanic mindset permeating through the landscape of the sick minds of people like Elyahu,  his cohorts and evil colleagues.

The Torah, after all, was supposed to be a light upon humanity. But when it becomes, thanks to those rabbis of Satan, a tool for genocide, there is obviously a huge catch-22 hanging over Judaism’s conscience.

Again, the fact that these nefarious rabbis don’t represent the entirety of Judaism is no guarantee that their damage will be limited. A fool man’s fire could frustrate a thousand wise men who wouldn’t know how to put it off.

Isn’t this the way the holocaust started? It didn’t start with concentration camps, or even with Kristalnacht.  Such death camps as Auschwitz , Treblinka, Mauthauzen and Bergen Belsen became only known much later.

The purpose of this small piece is not to vilify or demonize Jews. Nor am I particularly enthusiastic about hurling Nazi epithets at Jews. However, nothing should be further from truth.

The call for sending millions of Palestinians to concentration camps means that a sizeable segment of the Israeli Jewish society is capable, at least mentally, of embarking on the unthinkable. It means that a real Jewish holocaust against the Palestinian people is not outside the realm of imagination.

This matter is well known, even known too well for us who live in this part of the world. After all, Israel demonstrated two years ago, during its Nazi-like onslaught on the Gaza Strip, that it could do the unthinkable.

And that was not the first time Israel behaved manifestly nefariously. In 2006, during the Israeli aggression on Lebanon , the Israeli air force dropped more than 2,000,000 cluster bomblets on South Lebanon civilian areas, arguably enough to kill or maim at least  2 million Lebanese children.

The scant media coverage of the latest diabolic statements by the rabbis of evil in no way lessens their gravity and seriousness. After all, these are not marginal or isolated figures in society.

In fact, paying not sufficient attention to this phenomenon is tantamount to encouraging it. If Germans and others had not kept silence in the late 1920s and early 1930s, many things wouldn’t have occurred.

I would want to be cautious drawing historical analogy between every thing happening in Israel today and everything that happened in Europe several decades ago.  However, there are certain parallels that shouldn’t escape our attention, and the latest outrageous statements by these diabolical rabbis are one of them.

Let no one say that words are innocuous and can’t kill; nay, words can kill and do kill. A few years ago, a Jewish immigrant from France decapitated a Palestinian cabby from East Jerusalem after the taxi-driver gave the killer a ride to his home north of Tel Aviv. And when the murderer was eventually arrested and interrogated by the police, he said he heard his neighborhood synagogue rabbi say that the lives of non-Jews had no sanctity.

More to the point, it is abundantly clear that thousands of Israeli soldiers would rather heed and obey their respective rabbis’ homilies than their army superiors’ instructions when it comes to treating Palestinians. This fact was revealed during the Israeli onslaught on Gaza two years ago when Israeli soldiers knowingly and deliberately murdered innocent civilians, including children, by the hundreds.

But this is not the time for demonization; it is rather the time for action. Jewish leaders of all orientations should speak up as strongly as possible against those who are besmirching the good name of their religion.

The likes of Shmuel Eliyahu must be told that there is no place in Judaism for those who advocate genocide for non-Jews. In the final analysis, when Jews or anybody else think or behave or act like the Nazis acted, they simply become Nazis themselves.

Finally, Jews shouldn’t keep silent in the face of these abominations just because the media and public opinion in the West are more or less keeping silent. Well, since when a moral stance was decided by other people’s apathy or silence?   In fact, the immoral silence of much of the west toward what is happening in Israel these days is bad and dangerous for Jews and their future.

Anything that causes moral desensitization to occur is definitely bad.  This is to put it extremely mildly.

 

TEAR GAS WAR CONTINUES IN WEST BANK ~~ TWO REPORTS

One Demonstrator Hit Directly in the Head with a Tear Gas Projectile in Ni’ilin

Posted by Joseph Dana

Over one hundred people marched to the Separation wall in Ni’ilin this afternoon. The army continued to break its own rules of conduct by firing tear gas canisters directly at demonstrators. One demonstrator was hit in the head with a tear gas projectile and others suffered from tear gas inhalation.

Injured Demonstrator in Ni'ilin. Picture Credit: Saaed AmirehInjured Demonstrator in Ni’ilin. Picture Credit: Saaed Amireh

 

The weekly demonstration against the separation wall in the village of Ni’ilin began as normal this afternoon. Over one hundred Palestinians with Israeli supporters marched from the village center after midday prayers to the space of the separation wall. Under the banner of Muslim and Christian unity among Palestinians, villagers chanted in front of soldiers on the other side of the wall. Soldiers responded by using tear gas projectiles as large bullets and firing them directly at protesters. One demonstrator was hit directly in the head from a tear gas canister. He was evacuated from the scene with minor wounds.

Soldiers attempted to enter the village from the extreme western portion of the wall after approximately one hour. Usually soldiers use the main gate in the separation wall itself but today they attempted to sneak up on protesters in order to arrest them. However, clashes broke out and soldiers were forced to retreat because of stones from local youth.

The army escalated the violence against the demonstrators with the use of rubber coated steel bullets and entered the village a second time. Clashes lasted for hours as soldiers repellently fired tear gas projectiles at demonstrators in clear violation of the army’s own code of conduct. No major injuries were reported other than severe tear gas inhalation among a group of demonstrators.

 

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Tears and gas: a call to mobilise

Posted by Joseph Dana

Originally published on Al Jazzera English with Jesse Rosenfeld.

As 2010 came to a close in the West Bank under the regular, weekly cloud of teargas experienced among the villages bordering Israel’s 1967 Green Line, 2011 started with the death of Palestinian woman from the village of Bil’in and the arrest of 19 Israeli activists in the Tel Aviv area.

The new year is just days underway and already it is clear that this will be the year that building ethno-nationalist rhetoric and legislation turned into concrete action.

Since the election of the right-wing Netanyahu government, the weekly West Bank demonstrations in the town of Bil’in have faced greater military repression, while the small but persistent radical Israeli left has moved from isolated protest to bringing the West Bank joint resistance model into Israel.

Following the killing of Bil’in’s first resident – Bassem abu Rahmah in 2009 – the continued jailing of village popular committee leader Abdullah Abu Rahmah, and a series of night time arrest raids without a murmur of protest from greater Israeli society, marginalised Israeli activists are now appealing outside their boarders and pushing forward the international boycott movement.

Tears and gas

After the announcement of the death of Jawaher abu Rahmah on the morning of January 1 from the complications of massive teargas exposure during the previous day’s demonstration, hundreds of Israeli leftists descended on the the ministry of defence, blockading the main road in front of it.

Later that evening another group of 25 Israelis woke the US Ambassador at his home in Herzliya chanting, ‘returning’ empty tear gas canisters and condemning the supply of teargas and other weapons to Israel by American companies and the government.

The evening ended with eight people arrested at the road block (they were later released without charge) and an additional 11 in jail from the protest at the Ambassador’s residence, facing a laundry list of charges including a weapons possession charge for the discharged teargas canisters.

The past months have seen an escalation in the crackdown on a small Israeli anti-occupation movement that has grown weary of engaging a public that is consumed by a mix of hyper nationalism and obliviousness to the reality of Israel’s expanding occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza.

Sentenced to three months in prison on December 27 for participating in a cycling protest during the 2008 Gaza war, Jonathan Pollak is the latest target of Israeli campaign against those amplifying the Palestinian call for justice. Pollak, a veteran of Palestinian popular resistance and a spokesperson for the coordinating committee for popular struggles across the West Bank, is a founder of the Israeli Anarchists Against the Wall – which has worked with Palestinian grassroots struggles since the Second Intifada.

“It will be the justice system itself, I believe, that will need to lower its eyes in the face of the suffering inflicted on Gaza’s inhabitants, just like it lowers its eyes and averts its vision each and every day when faced with the realities of the occupation,” Pollak told his packed sentencing hearing in Tel Aviv.

Donning a t-shirt with the image of Black Consciousness movement leader and anti-apartheid activist, Steve Biko, he defiantly challenged the legitimacy of the Israeli legal system while maintaining a calm demeanor.

Building on the sentiments that Pollak expressed, the January 1 demonstrations bypassed the Israeli public in favour of trying to bring international pressure on Israel for its violation of Palestinian rights.

Activists chanted ‘fight back against apartheid’ in English as they clashed with police in front of the international media in Tel Aviv. The English chants were escalated later in the evening when activists attempted to directly confront the American ambassador.

“We are tying the connections between US aid and support for Israel in general and the suppression of Palestinian popular struggle,” said Matan Cohen just after being released from jail in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Awareness and divestment

Originally an Israeli activist with the Anarchists Against the Wall, Cohen is now primarily active with the movement to divest from Israel on American college campus’ while completing his undergraduate degree in the US. He was one of the first activists jailed for blocking the road in front of the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, being shoved into a police van and beaten.

“We seek to connect the continuing resistance on the ground across the occupied territories and Israel to the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement,” he added.

On the back of rabbinical calls to bar Jews from renting property to Palestinians, rallies throughout Israel demanding the full segregation of Arabs and the expulsion of non-Jewish migrants, and the government’s push forward of uncompromising settlement expansion, Israel is now solidifying the image of what it means to be a Jewish state.

As a result, these few activists have found themselves looking in on a country where Palestinian existence is being erased from daily life, hidden behind a myriad of walls and checkpoints or evicted from homes in mixed neighbourhoods. Meanwhile the activists are faced with a government which capitalises, exploits and encourages a brand of isolationist Jewish exclusivity that both demands the world’s unquestioning support and shuns any frank discussion about the reality in the country.

Seeking to use the privileged access their voice carries in North America and Europe to add power to the voice of the Palestinians they struggle alongside, these Israeli leftists are now side-stepping engagement with a society that is unwilling to listen.

Faced with the reality that they are talking to a government that uses blunt repression to avoid its responsibilities, Israel’s Palestinian solidarity activists are now abandoning the failed attempts to be marginally heard in Israel’s national discussion and choosing to push for global direct action.

 

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